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Exploring for gold at Alaska's Dolan Creek nears permit stage

Forget Pebble for a minute. There's another huge project gearing up in Southwest Alaska, and it would turn a swath of spruce- and tundra-covered land owned by Alaska Natives in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region into one of the world's largest gold mines.

The mining companies running the Donlin Creek exploration project say their studies show potential for making billions and they plan to apply soon for the environmental and construction permits they'll need to build the open-pit mine, one of them announced Tuesday.

The companies -- NovaGold Resources, a small mining company, and Barrick Gold Corp., one of the world's largest producers, both based in Canada -- are gunning to build Donlin because of its massive storehouse of gold.

Building Donlin also would deliver the long-held dream of some corporate Yup'ik Native leaders to create a large industry in the Yukon- Kuskokwim region, where the unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation and typically is the highest in Alaska.

During its exploration phase, Donlin employed people from 32 Interior villages and it gathered a healthy amount of community support, said Matthew Nicolai, chief executive of Calista Corp., which is owned by Yup'ik shareholders from the region.

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